Buzz Knight has turned me on to a new bio about Babe Ruth, "The Big Bam," especially timely in the summer where Barry Bonds will undoubtedly pass The Bambino in round-trippers. Of course, Babe's reputation as a hard-drinking, party animal is the legend that we all remember, but author Leigh Montville portrays another side of this superstar that may surprise you.
Babe Ruth was a street machine, building on his stature on the diamond with strategic appearances that added to his image in a more media simple time. At the end of the 1924 season, Ruth went on a West Coast "barnstorming" promotional tour that is beyond impressive. Check out this "box score" of activity below.
Immediately after the last game of that season's World Series, The Babe left New York City on October 11th, and didn't return until December 6th. Here are the details of the trip:
- The Babe covered 8,500 miles on the road trip (no air travel)
- He played exhibitions in 15 cities in six states.
- He hits 17 home runs in 15 games.
- He drew 125,000 people.
- The games were under the auspices of a leading newspaper in each city, with the backing of one of the following organizations: Elks, Knights of Columbus or American Legion.
- He made 22 speeches at breakfasts, luncheons, dinners and banquets given in his honor.
- Seven speeches were given from Pullman train platforms.
- He rode 250 miles on a locomotive through Montana.
- He autographed nearly 5,000 baseballs. He autographed 1,800 baseballs for the San Francisco Examiner alone, all of which were sold for charity.
- He headed four parades, accompanied by mayors and city officials.
- He wore his dinner coat 19 times and complained of so few opportunities to dress up.
- He refereed a four round bout in Hollywood, CA and was presented with a wrist watch by the American Legion. He appreciated the watch, but feared that other players would make unkind remarks.
- He batted 1,000 autographed baseballs to 10,000 Los Angeles schoolboys and later nearly fell off the roof of the Grandstand.
- He drove a golf ball 353 yards, breaking the course record at Ranch Golf Club in L.A.
- He visited 18 hospitals and orphan asylums.
- He posed for nearly 250 photos in every city. A total of 3,750 photo ops.
- He struck out twice with three men on base.
- He ate four buffalo steaks at one meal.
- He talked over the radio at San Francisco for 12 minutes before he knew he was being “framed.”
- He refused to wear a nightgown or pajamas at any time on the trip, despite the protests of his agent and teammate. He later was presented with a big red flannel nightgown at a public luncheon at the Biltmore in L.A.
And we think 15 bars in 15 days is a strenuous promotion. All this, of course, after a six month baseball season, and a World Series. As Buzz points out, Babe Ruth was larger than life, not just because he hit a pile of home runs. (Barry Bonds should read this book.) And radio stations need to adopt this same type of BIG THINKING in order to stand out in 2006.